The second major label long player from this mercurial quartet was a highly contentious affair, again due in large part to the album’s flamboyant cover art (whose nudity was later replaced by a plain white cover stating the first amendment) and songs advocating stealing and describing a ménage a trios. Ritual de lo Habitual can almost be divided into two totally different EPs. The fantastic first side, which includes two of the band’s best known songs in “Stop” and “Been Caught Stealing,” showcases a hard hitting, melodic, and concise rhythmic juggernaut. “Stop” is an explosive opening number that’s most notable for a phenomenal drumming performance from Perkins and a cute a capella section. “Been Caught Stealing” is the one with the dogs barking at the beginning of it (my old dog Shakespeare used to go crazy whenever I’d play it!), and it’s a terrific, totally fun rocker, simple as that. The rest of the first side also impresses, as “No One’s Leaving” and “Ain’t No Right” are a pair of funky, fast paced rockers with guitar histrionics galore, and “Obvious” is utterly anthemic, with an outstanding Farrell vocal.
Far different is side two, which sees the band stretching out quite a bit on some highly ambitious (and pretentious) songs that unfold slowly. Featuring a Led Zeppelin derived mystical bent, this atmospheric, often psychedelic second side is somewhat unfocused but is never less than interesting, and it has some transcendent peaks along the way. In particular, the near 11-minute “Three Days” is simply the band’s greatest epic, their “Stairway To Heaven” or “Paranoid Android,” so to speak. The song builds atmospherically before settling into a bass-led groove, ultimately climaxing with some spectacular guitar soloing from Navarro. “Then She Did” has a melodic, laid-back, trippy groove that’s easy on the ears, plus it has several memorable surges, while “Of Course,” though the album’s least impressive number, is still notable for its snake charmer violin. Both of these songs feature extra instrumentation, are rather formless, and overstay their welcome (they clock in at 8:18 and 7:02, respectively), but both certainly have their moments as well, especially the former track which I like a lot. Anyway, the comparatively modest “Classic Girl” (a “mere” 5:07), an understated yet epic ballad, then provides a perfect close to a classic album that I’ve grown to appreciate more and more over the years.
Unfortunately, the band’s shocking breakup soon after this album’s release (when they were poised to become big after headlining Farrell’s first Lollapalooza festival) ensured that Jane’s Addiction would never get to further build upon this outstanding release. Then again, there’s something to be said for breaking up prematurely rather than sticking around too long (The Rolling Stones and Metallica, anybody?). Either way, the band’s premature breakup gave Jane’s Addiction a mythical stature that was based as much on what might have been as on their impressive but limited achievements together, perhaps given further impetus by Farrell’s subsequent underachievement (with Porno For Pyros and as a solo artist) and his status as the outspoken overseer of the alternative nation.